The man with the golden arm, a novel

by Nelson Algren

Hardcover, 1949




Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, 1949.


The story of Frankie Machine, a poker dealer in Chicago, and his dealings with morphine, alcohol, and his wife Sophie.

Media reviews

I’m still amazed that this dark and risky novel, The Man with the Golden Arm—it ends with a poem/epitaph!—won such high canonical praise (perhaps making way for descendents like Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree, and Denis Johnson’s Angels?).

User reviews

LibraryThing member Carissa.Green
I understand why this book is considered a classic of a sorts. I understand that it was groundbreaking, and there still are not a lot of books like it. But I wasn't crazy about it. I found the vernacular hard to wade through. On top of that, Algren often writes an opaque sentence full of flourish, in which meaning gets lost, rather than just saying what's happening. But most importantly, these are ugly people who have given up even before they have come of age. I didn't like any of them, except for the prostitute Molly-O. I found that most of the time, I just didn't care what happened to them. I am not sorry I read this book, because it is important to read the classics, the books that made a mark, but if you don't share that value with me, I'd say skip it. Bleh. -cg… (more)
LibraryThing member jwhenderson
Nelson Algren wrote: ". . . I was going to write a war novel. But it turned out to be this Golden Arm thing. I mean, the war kind of slipped away, and those people with the hypos came along and that was it."
This suggests that Algren was overcome by his own creation, and I suppose that can happen sometimes, when you create such real gritty characters. This novel, The Man With the Golden Arm, is certainly gritty, and real, and a fascinating read. The characters literally jump out at you from the page and you realize that the author knows these people and has the skill to impart that knowledge. While sometimes both harrowing and grim, the novel grips the reader and does not let him go. My reaction, as it was with Camus' The Stranger, is that this is not a world I would want to live in but it makes me think. If you enjoy this book you might want to explore Never Come Morning and other works by Nelson Algren.… (more)
LibraryThing member jenniferthomp75
Dense and provocative, Algren's classic novel about addiction is just as relevant today as it was 60 years ago. Although I found it difficult at first, especially with the slang, I decided to try and read while the soundtrack to the film version played in the background. Immediately, I found that I understood the book better and felt a part of the time period. Can't wait to check out the film and compare the two.… (more)
LibraryThing member mojomomma
Here's a feel-good book that will restore your faith in humanity. Not!

Algren's tale of hustler Frankie Majcinek (or Machine) in post WWII Chicago is utterly bleak and depressing. All you can do is watch Frankie slowly circle the drain. Lots of dialect and slang makes it difficult to know what's happening to whom. The writing may be inspired, but its just too dreary for me.… (more)
LibraryThing member marisdotter
Very realistic


Local notes

Signed by Algren. Winner of the 1950 National Book Award. non-circulating
Page: 0.907 seconds